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How to Get Tech Toys Cheap
Life, Shopping,

How to Get Tech Toys Cheap

Keeping up with the latest technology trends can quickly get expensive. Although being labeled as an early adopter sounds good in practice, it’s a title that definitely comes with a hefty price tag.

But you don’t have to sacrifice anything but time to be a savvy consumer of technology. With a little bit of patience, here’s how to get tech toys cheap.

Simply Wait

This is the most boring but practical tip I can give you on how to get your favorite tech toys cheap. But the fact of the matter is that there’s a direct negative correlation between the amount of time you’re willing to wait, and the price of the tech toy you desire.

The best (and most patient) customers wait until the initial release hype is over, sometimes even until the next generation is out. Graciously, multi-generation products (like the Xbox or iPhone) offer some predictability as to how long after release prices are expected to drop.

For new products, you can often count on major shopping holidays (like Black Friday) to score some kind of deal. Brands like Fitbit and Apple rarely discount, but are often sold during shopping holidays with a gift card bonus to department stores like Target. So if you can’t get a discount, at least aim for a useful bonus!


Sellers on eBay are excited about the potential that auction-style bidding provides, which is why they choose to list with this service instead of some of the other options on this list. For buyers, this usually means a low initial bid, with the hopes that a coveted tech toy will spark a bidding war just short of a product’s retail value (or more if there’s some level of scarcity currently in place).

Fortunately, for buyers that wait until a few months after a product’s release, these bidding wars are few and far between. More than likely, you’ll find a listing with a fair “Buy it Now” price that’s cheaper than buying the product new. Numerous purchase protections through eBay will ensure that you’ve got some insurance on a big transaction.

Buy Refurbished

This is different than buying used, because it usually comes with some level of warranty or guarantee from the manufacturer. Apple’s best pricing can be found in it’s refurbished products section, which includes everything from laptops, to tablets, and iPods.

If you’re making a big purchase, it’s nice to know that it’s protected – and that you’re saving several hundred dollars over retail. Of course, it’s important to note that refurbished products are often several months or generations old, which may not be something you want to spend your money on.

Groupon Goods is an excellent general marketplace for finding refurbished tech toys. On top of generally cheap prices, they also frequently offer percentage discounts (rarely over 10%) on their Goods category, in addition to a percentage rebate (usually 6%) through a service called Ebates (learn more about Ebates on my post, “Stop Spending So Much Money Online Shopping”).

Amazon offers discounts on returns/open packages (though generally unused) technology through their Warehouse Deals.


This category for how to get tech toys cheap should be treated with the highest amount of caution. When purchasing used technology, especially at a higher price point, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how that device normally functions, and how to look for warning signs of wear and tear. When purchasing directly from it’s previous owner, you should request photos AND an in-person inspection of physical wear and tear.

Popular places to purchase used technology include:

  • Craigslist
  • Amazon
  • eBay

Caveat emptor! (buyer beware)

Student Discounts

Many major technology hardware and software companies offer student discounts that can end up helping you save hundreds of dollars on your favorite tech toys. Some of them employ thorough tactics to verify that you’re a current student, and others are more lax. Use that information as you will.

Technology companies that offer student discounts:

Major Sales Holidays

There are certain times of the year when various categories of technology tend to be on sale, but as a general rule, Black Friday is the day to go crazy and spend money on the tech toys you’ve been saving up for.

A caveat – top deals are usually available at a very limited quantity. If you’re serious about a certain technology purchase, make sure you get to a store as early as possible. Sometimes, these same deals are online. Just do your research!

The common characteristics between these various methods for how to get tech toys cheap center around the idea of patience and strategy. So do some research and try to ignore tempting shiny new things – at least for a little while.

Once you’ve invested in some shiny new tech toy, make sure to protect your investment. If you’re local to Chicago, Barry’s Computer Repair is a service I swear by, referring anyone I know who gets a dreaded cracked screen. Barry’s also offers incredibly inexpensive device insurance – often cheaper and more comprehensive than your provider!

How do you get tech toys cheap?

Share your secrets in the comments!

Food, Life, Shopping,

3 Ways to Grocery Shop in Chicago without Leaving the House

3 or 4 months out of the year, grocery becomes a chore in every sense of the word due to the cold, seemingly insurmountable walking and bag transporting conditions. But even in good weather, sometimes the grocery store is too far away to be plausible if you don’t have a car, or to be honest, maybe you’re just feeling lazy.

But regardless of why you can’t leave the house to go grocery shopping, you’re in luck, because you have options. Here are 3 ways to grocery shop in Chicago without leaving the house.


Promo code: Use “fggx” to get $20 worth of delivery credits (can be spread over multiple orders)
Delivery charge: Start at $5, and go up depending on how far you are from the city center + 9% service fee on groceries + tip

Postmates is very similar to Grubhub, in that you can order our favorite restaurant food for delivery. Where it’s different is in its integration to shop basic groceries. With this in mind, and as many Postmates ride bikes, you should use Postmates mostly for small orders of necessities and popular items. You can usually expect Postmates to deliver in about an hour or less.

If your exact desired item isn’t in stock, Postmates gives you the option to substitute the order, take an in-store recommendation, or cancel the order completely.


Promo code: Use ‘MOSMAN11 for $10 off your first order
Delivery charge: Various. Depends on your delivery timeframe and order size.

Instacart is a lot like Postmates, although they specialize much more in groceries and have a much better selection of products. The best part? You can shop favorites from grocery stores instead of accepting products stockpiled in a warehouse (which is how Peapod operates).

Delivery charges are quite minimal compared to Postmates and Peapod, ranging from $3.99-$5.99, depending on how quickly you need your groceries. They also have a yearly membership program that’s worth every penny if you end up using Instacart on the regular. The only downside is their pricing – sometimes up to 20% marked up from retail prices.

Bonus: You don’t need a Costco membership to order from Costco with Costco products.


Promo code: 60 days of free delivery + $20 off first order with code 60DAYSFREE
Delivery charge: Flat rate around $5-7 per delivery + tip

Peapod is the best ways to grocery shop in Chicago without leaving the house. They’re pretty flexible in terms of when you want your groceries, but should expect as long as a 4 hour delivery time block. Make sure someone’s home to accept the delivery!

They run several promotions throughout the year, so when used strategically, it’s one of the cheapest and most convenient ways to grocery shop, without, ya know, doing it yourself.

Downside: Peapod doesn’t always let you know when your exact desired item isn’t in stock so you may find yourself surprised when an item you were counting on doesn’t come with your delivery.

A note on produce

I try to avoid buying fresh produce through any of these ways to grocery shop in Chicago without leaving the house. Stock up on frozen and canned vegetables, but save produce shopping for when you can pick it out yourself, whenever possible. A personal shopper isn’t ever going to be as choosy as you are.

A note on the shopping experience

It can be kind of annoying to buy individual grocery items on a screen, but all the above ways to grocery shop in Chicago without leaving the house try to make the experience as painless as possible. They have an ordering solution that’s suitable for those who like desktops and an app for those who prefer mobile ordering.

From a spending standpoint, grocery shopping online is a great way to check yourself again a monthly grocery budget without having to calculate things out by hand. For someone trying to avoid impulse shopping by educating themselves with in-your-face pricing, these grocery shopping solutions could have additional benefits for users.

Now that you know how to grocery shop in Chicago without leaving the house, what will you be using these services for?

  • A late night snack ingredient run?
  • Something you forgot to make food for a party you’re hosting?
  • Everything if it’s too cold out or you’re too far away from a grocery store, without a car?

Let us know in the comments!

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Fitness, Life,

HomeFit: The At Home Fitness Revolution

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So you want to get FIT, do you!? But what’s that? You don’t have time or money to attend a traditional fitness or health center? NEVER FEAR!! Some of the best bodies in the world are built without fancy machines or facilities (Although they do help, so if you’re being cheap… Go get a gym membership).

There’s a few different ways to attain that awesome body of awesomeness in the comfort of home:

  • Following a strictly designed body weight program
  • Buying a pre-programmed fitness routine (Such as P90x or Insanity)
  • Buying gym equipment for your home

The last option is similar to actually having a gym membership. However having a few pieces of equipment at home will definitely make achieving symmetrical results easier. I recommend having the following:

  • Dumbbells/Kettle Bells (weights will vary based on your strength level)
  • Resistance Bands (varying resistance, again, based on strength level)
  • Chin up bar of some sort
  • Jump Rope
  • Practice a sport such as golf using this indoor golf mats.
  • Cardio Equipment, this exercise is great for wellness including for low testosterone therapy.

Now, let’s say you get the recommended equipment (cardio is optional)… What do you do with it? Just like normal weight lifting, varying sets, reps and intensity to cause progressive overload is the key. Programs will vary slightly based on goal. As a disclaimer, none of the proposed exercises or programs should be completed if above your ability level or without proper evaluation by a health professional. Always remember to warm up properly and stretch when done!

Program 1: I WANT TO BE STRONGGGGGGGG! (Extra G’s because you know deep down you’re a real G).

Day 1: Upper Body (Repeat 3-10x based on fitness level)

  • 50 x Jumping Jacks
  • 15 x Pushup Pro Tip: Do explosive pushups for a challenge!
  • 10 x Crab Walk (each direction)
  • 15 x Shoulder Press (Requires dumbbells)
  • 15 x Spiderman Pushups (15 ea. side)
  • 1 minute Plank Pro tip: Try High planking or single arm alternation to make it harder!
  • 15 x Chest Fly (requires dumbbells)
  • 1 Minute Jump Rope
  • 15 x Triceps Extension (15 ea. arm)
  • 1 minute Pushup Hold
  • Rest 2 minutes

Day 2: Lower Body (Repeat 3-10x based on ability level)

  • 1 Minute High Knees
  • 1 Minute Mountain Climbers
  • 15 x Goblet Squats
  • 15 x Straight Leg Deadlifts (Requires Dumbbells)
  • 15 x Lunges (each leg) Pro tip: Do switch lunges if you need more of a challenge!
  • 15 x Switch Step Ups (watch your step! 15 ea. leg).
  • 1 minute Jump Rope
  • 100 x Calf Burnouts (Calf jumping)
  • 15 x Laying Leg Raises Pro Tip: Try hanging leg raises for a challenge!
  • Rest 2 minutes

Day 3: Rest! You earned it tiger ;D.

Day 4: Upper Body (Repeat 3-10x based on ability level)

  • 1 Minute Jump Rope
  • 12 x Pullups (Do as many as you can!)
  • 15 x Bent Over Row (requires Dumbbells) Pro tip: Change grips to target differently!
  • 15 x Biceps Curl (Requires dumbbells or bands)
  • 15 x Superman plank pulls (Requires towels or socks)
  • 15 x Resistance band Lat Pulls (each side)
  • 15 x Plank Rotations
  • 1 minute Jump rope
  • Rest 2 minutes

Day 5: Lower Body (Repeat 3-10x based on ability level)

  • 1 Minute Jump Rope
  • 100 x Calf Burnouts
  • 1 Minute Jump Rope
  • 15 x Squat Jumps
  • 1 minute Jump Rope
  • 15 x Side Lunges (each leg)
  • 15 x Sumo Deadlift (requires dumbbells)
  • 1 minute Jump Rope
  • 100 x Flutter Kicks
  • 1 Minute Jump Rope
  • Rest 2 minutes

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Abs (Repeat 3-10x based on ability level)

  • 1 minute Plank
  • 25 x Laying Leg Raises
  • 25 x Crunches
  • 25 x Side Crunches (25 ea. side!)
  • 1 minute bicycle kick
  • 25 x V ups (Jackknives)
  • Rest 2 minutes

This is just an example routine. There are THOUSANDS of exercises out there. Primarily you want:

  • Exercises which target large muscle groups (burns more calories, builds more muscle)
  • Do cardio for 75-150+ minutes each week. 75 for High intensity, 150 for low intensity. The above workout includes cardio.
  • Maintain rep ranges based on goal: 1-6 for Strength (Requires HEAVY weight), 6-12 for strength/endurance/hypertrophy, and 12+ for pure endurance.
  • Exclude exercises which cause you pain!
  • Stretch AFTER exercise only. Stretching before can cause injury.
  • Proper diet and nutrition! Check out the other articles on this site for more information.

Additionally, if the weather is nice, get creative. Park workouts are amazing and fun (Doing pullups on a jungle gym, for instance)! Doing resistance moves also helps, such as hand stands. We also recommend to use testosterone boosters to improve your endurance and training, find yours at
Whatever your goal, wherever you can go, always keep fitness in mind. Our bodies, are our temples. Go out, get strong, get fit and let your body show you of what it’s capable.

How to Shop Online for a New Bank
Life, Personal Finance,

How to Shop Online for a New Bank

If you’re looking to save more of your hard-earned money this year you may want to reconsider where you bank. The thought of switching banks can seem like a stressful endeavor, but it could end up saving you big bucks in the long run. In 2015, the nation’s 3 largest banks collected over 6 billion dollars in fees from consumers.

How to shop online for a new bank

The easiest way to change your luck (and fee structure) is to learn how to shop online for a new bank. Most, if not all, banks have a website that you can use to gather information like account benefits and branch locations. If you’re serious about finding a bank with lower fees, and live in the Chicago area, you’ve got over 100 different banks to choose from. But don’t be overwhelmed – PrimoBanks has done the research required to show you what to expect as far as various fees are concerned.

Here’s an easy 3-step process to get you started on PrimoBanks’ website!

Step 1: Select your State of Residence (*currently only Illinois)
Step 2: Enter your Zip Code(s)
Step 3: Choose a Bank Fee

Chicago banks don’t like to share All fees publicly

Banks will promote their free services such as online banking, commercial banking or bill pay front and center on their website, but not all banks disclose their fees online.

When it comes to account fees banks are not required to display them online, but only during the account opening process.

Only 50% of brick and mortar banks in the U.S. choose to post their fees online for consumers to view, and if they are online they are usually buried in the fine print.  That’s why it’s important to consider account fees when shopping around for a new bank. If a bank won’t provide you with their fees upfront it may be a good indication of worse things to come.

Good News for Chicago banking

More banks in Chicago are starting to offer consumers the convenience of applying for a new account online through a secure application.  Right now, about 40% of brick and mortar banks offer online account opening capabilities for consumer accounts and look for that number to increase in the future.

Like anything else shopping online for a new bank will require a little bit of research, but will be well worth it to your savings!

What bank do you use for most of your needs? Are you wondering how to shop online for a new bank? Ask your banking questions and leave opinions in the comments!

custom t-shirt printing
Life, Shopping,

Get All Your Custom T-shirt Printing at Rush Order Tees

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Rush Order Tees, because they were one of my first clients when I made the move to freelance full-time, and are still one of my favorite clients today. Their blog is full of both fun and inspirational goodies that span all kinds of unique interests. There’s really something for anyone’s taste, and they have a lot of resources and support for custom t-shirt printing.

Working with Rush Order Tees has introduced me to custom t-shirt printing that is a cut above the rest.

Why you should get all your custom t-shirt printing at Rush Order Tees

Quick Turnaround

After all, it’s not called “Rush Order Tees” because it takes weeks to get the t-shirts you ordered! Oh no, Rush Order Tees prides itself on getting you product when you need it. If you can afford to wait, your shipping is free for printed and embroidered wear. If you need it in 2 days, that’s not a problem – Rush Order Tees can deliver. If you have any questions or special circumstances, they’re very responsive on their live chat.

High & Low volume Orders

Whether you need shirts for a team of hundreds, or even just one singular custom t-shirt, Rush Order Tees can accommodate. No need to spend a lot of money on a one-off project. Besides screen printing and embroidery, they offer a whole portfolio of custom t-shirt services.

Design Resources

Overall, Rush Order Tees’ t-shirt selection and design process is very simple and intuitive:

  1. Choose a product and color
  2. Add your own images or choose from clipart
  3. Add text
  4. Customize with individual names and numbers (ex/a sports team) for an additional cost

Remember those blog posts I was talking about? They’re full of detailed advice for designing shirts for volunteer events, sports teams, corporate functions, and so much more. Besides blog content, Rush Order Tees allows you to consult with a screen printing professional for free via their live chat.

Rush Order Tees also thoroughly reviews each order before printing and looks for common design issues including, but not limited to:

  • Pixelation
  • Placement and Centering
  • Removing background images
  • Color changes
  • Adjusting sizes between youth and adult apparel
  • Ink color contrast

Between Rush Order Tee’s resources during and after the design process, there’s no reason you’ll end up with a design you’re not in love with.

Fundraiser Support

Fundraising by selling products can be a nightmare. But, if you’re using custom t-shirts to raise money for a cause, Rush Order Tees can help you handle all of the small details. Their fundraising platform spreadspirit allows you to create a t-shirt and public page to share, then collects payment and order information for large groups and handles fulfillment and shipping. No sweat necessary.

There are other custom t-shirt printing companies that may be able to do things cheaper, but they are unlikely to achieve the same quality, especially in a rush. Rush Order Tees wins by being a company that always has their customer’s back.

Do you have an upcoming custom t-shirt printing projects? Go to Rush Order Tees to start the design process.

And share the details of your project in the comments if you’d like some help coming up with ideas to make them pop!

aspire life products
Beauty, Life,

How Aspire Life Products Revolutionized My Beauty Routine

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Sixty days ago I completely changed my skincare routine as an experiment which in turn changed my skin for life. I had been using Aspire Life face sunscreen daily as a part of my routine but wanted to try their entire daily routine skincare line.  Since I loved the weightless moisturizing feel of the sunscreen, it was an easy decision to try their other products. When I reach out to Clyde, founder and owner, I didn’t know it would soon change my complexion to a brighter and clearer version of my face.

Clyde has the most inspiring story.  After a near death experience as a single father he felt the need to create authentic and honest skincare products.  Clyde had spent a majority of his life as a cosmetic ingredient developer, an important constant he can assure consumers is that Vitamin C may not a glamorous ingredient but it is truly the best antioxidant for the skin.  This bit of information has stuck with me as it is a large part of the natural and honest ingredients and science behind Aspire Life.

After receiving the products, I immediately started the four step routine for morning and night. Within two weeks I started to notice my Melasma disappear. Now, my forehead is nearly completely clear and my face is brightening with each use. Melasma is a common skincare problem that causes brown patches on the face is typically on onset of birth control.  I made the decision years ago to change my medication habits and try to clear my skin.  Until Aspire life, nothing really worked. Often skincare lines that clear Melasma are very strong and can cause breakouts or over oily skin. Aspire Life’s approach to skin care is simple:  safe and effective.

Products Used:

Brightening Essence: To be used on dark spots to reduce discoloration and to even skin tone after cleansing $50

The Brightening Essence provides the following skin care benefits and functionalities:

  • Calming
  • Environmental pollution protection
  • MMP inhibition
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation
  • Reduces irritation
  • Reduces melanogenesis
  • Restores suppleness
  • Suppressor of melanocytes
  • Slows the skin’s aging process
  • UV protection
  • Even skin’s tone
  • Repairs sun damage and sun spots

Essential Essence: A water based moisturizer to be used after cleansing in the morning and night all over face and neck $40

The Essential Essence addresses and provides for the following:

  • Acne relief and prevention
  • Anti-inflammation
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-wrinkle
  • Collagen building
  • Pollution protection
  • Natural lipid stimulator
  • Makes skin luxuriously smooth and supple
  • Rebuilds the skin’s outer layers
  • Reduces & prevents sun spots
  • Reduces irritation
  • Restores skin’s immune system
  • Skin clarifying
  • Slows the skin’s aging process
  • Supplement DNA repair

Complete Sunscreen: This was the first product I used from Aspire Life, now I’m hooked. The sunscreen is light and feels more like a serum since it is water based. $30

Gentle Foaming Cleanser: This is a very gentle foaming cleanser. It works very well to remove dirt and makeup that your skin retained during the day. $15

The complete set is available for $130 at

Would you use Aspire Life products on your skin? Or have you before? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

beauty products to get you through the winter
Beauty, Life,

Beauty Products to Get You Through the Winter

I belong to an awesome “club” of sorts, called Influenster. People (mostly bloggers), with a lot of influence (measured by social reach), have the opportunity to be matched with different campaigns and try different products.

Earlier this month, I was sent a box filled with health and beauty products. For the most part, I’ve incorporated them into my daily routine. Here are my thoughts on each one:

Botanics Organic Hydrating Day Cream


Retail: $12.99

I’ve been getting into facial creams lately, as I’m told now is about the time my skin will start turning against me. Besides that, my skin turns super scaly in the winter and quite frankly, can use all the help it can get.

What I like about this cream is that it wakes you right up with invigorating minty essential oils. What I like less is the texture. It’s not as smooth as you’d expect. Overall, I would still use this cream to start my morning in a refreshing way.

Foot Petals: Killer Kushionz


Retail: $12.95

I’ll take any help I can get when wearing heels. These are perfect if you’re like me and save heels only for special occasions, and complain about it the whole time.

SinfulColors SinfulShine Nail Polish

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.36.33 PM

Retail: $2.99

I had such high hopes for this nail polish. I like that it’s a two step system that supposedly gives you gel-like nail consistency. But there weren’t any special directions, and I messed up my first manicure by not knowing how many coats were needed. The pigment was good, but the texture was not what I would describe as gel-like. And it chipped easier than my regular polish of choice.

Good Health Veggie Straws


Retail: $3.99 for 6.75oz

When I eat junk food, I go all out. So when someone tries to get me to eat healthy “junk food,” I tend to have my guard up. I shared these with a health-crazy friend and she absolutely loved them. I wasn’t stoked – they were pretty bland and tasteless. I think it just depends on your relationship with food.

Soapbox Shampoo & Conditioner


Retail: $5.99 for 16oz

This shampoo and conditioner smell so fresh and leave my hair so soft. I love that there’s a TOMs-like mission behind the brand. For every product you buy, they donate product to people in need. The price is pretty fair considering the social-consciousness and size.

Yogi Tea


Retail: $4.99 for 16 count

Yogi Tea is consistently among the best I’ve ever tried. I’m a huge tea fan and theirs gets my stamp of approval.

Not Your Mother’s Whip it Up Cream Styling Mousse


Retail: $3 for 2.1oz, $7 for 7oz

You don’t need a lot of product for va-va-voom volume. It smells like cupcakes. It works, but don’t overdo it!

Would you try any of these products?

Please note: I received these products for free to review.

Life, Shopping,

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

We’ve all done it.

Snapped hundreds of pictures on vacation, vowed to upload them to Facebook, print them, whatever… and then it never actually happens. Those precious memories are out of sight and out of mind, often on memory cards that get lost or damaged. Such a travesty.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are so many ways to bring new life to old photos. Here are a few of my favorites options:

Phone Case

I love street art. When I studied abroad in Barcelona, I started a mini blog to document all the amazing pieces I found. It’s not hard to find a a great place to put street art. Honestly, it would work perfectly in any of these custom photo product categories. But because I love street art so much, I like it to be with me always, which is how it made it’s way onto my phone.

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

Custom phone cases don’t have to mean sacrificing protection. The most recent custom phone case I made was from Vistaprint, I opted for rubberized protection.

Coffee Mug

If you drink coffee or tea at work, you ought to have a reusable coffee mug. Not only does it help save the environment, one cup of coffee at a time… it also let’s you show off a little of your personality.

I’m on the look out for what I would consider to be the perfect coffee mug – one where the image wrap takes up the entire space with no white spots.

bring new life to old photos

In the meantime, I’ve ordered coffee mugs (and many other photo products) from PrinterPix. But don’t pay retail, they frequently have great Groupon deals.


I recently ordered these coasters from PrinterPix after a trip to Peru:

5 Ways to Bring New Life to Old Photos

Whether or not you respect your coffee table, coasters make great accents. Regardless of if you choose to use trip pictures, pictures of friends, or old-fashioned pictures of family members (I know someone doing this as a gift this year…), you can’t go wrong. Good-quality coasters with a personal touch make a great addition to a coffee table.

Printed Canvas

My parents got me started on custom canvases. For every trip they’ve been on, they get a custom canvas printed and hang it in the foyer. They even installed spotlights to make the pictures really pop. They have an eye for beauty (especially because at least one of the pictures hanging is my own ;)), and I love taking in the whole room when I’m at their house.

I started this tradition with my boyfriend, getting custom canvases printed after our first trip together, which resulted in so many beautiful pictures. We got our first one made by little print in Melbourne when we were there. It reminds us everyday of how lucky Australians are.

Picture it on Canvas is a great resource for different sizes, frame thickness, and other treatments. I like the square options – they make it easy to fit in multiple canvas pictures in a small space. Groupon frequently runs deals, so check there first before paying full price (and note that you’ll still be responsible for shipping). If you’re not super picky about options, Walgreens also frequently does deals when you sign up for their email newsletter.

Photo Book

I like photo books to commemorate occasions or long periods of time.

To give you an example, my mom made one for a trip we took after I graduated to Spain and France.

She made me another one when I graduated college.

bring new life to old photos 2

They’re small and easy to store. And it’s fun to look back at a snapshot of time – especially when you know someone else put an effort into putting it together for you.

So whether you’re giving gifts, or making custom photo projects for yourself, there are so many great options to bring new life to old photos!

Have you taken advantage of any of the aforementioned opportunities? Or maybe did something else? Share your custom photo project ideas in the comments!

8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books
Life, Shopping,

8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books

I love books so much that I challenged myself to read one book each week for a total of 52 this year… and I’ve already surpassed my goal. If you’re a kindred book spirit, let’s be friends on Goodreads.

What I don’t love about books is when I want one that just came out and it’s ridiculously expensive.

With a little self control and planning, you should never pay full price for books, even if they just came out. I’m willing to bet that the book of your dreams is available through one of the following options at a highly reduced cost!

8 Alternatives to Avoid Paying Full Price for Books

Used Books on Amazon

Let’s start with the basics. I’ve always used Amazon to get the best pricing on textbooks for college, but it also often offers the best price for a book I’m desiring. The kindle route is not the best way to go – especially if you love the feeling of a book in your hand and the ability to turn the pages on your own. Instead, search for a book of your choice and look at the used book pricing. There are few books I can’t find for a dollar or less (plus shipping). If I absolutely can’t find a book for a favorable price, I add it to my Amazon Wish List and monitor it periodically for pricing changes.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon built it’s reputation as being your one stop shop for books, and it’s new Kindle Unlimited subscription feature is no exception. It’s $10 per month and allows unlimited access to titles in the library. The library is pretty extensive and often includes new release titles. There used to be a similar service called Oyster, but it’s going out of business… probably because Amazon got in the game. At any rate, Amazon’s library is hard to beat.


Shelfie is an interesting little app I came across. Basically, you use your phone’s camera to take a “Shelfie” of the books on your bookshelf. Shelfie analyzes your collection and matches it with the free ebook versions of your book. Their library is somewhat limited as of the last time I used it, but it’s definitely something to watch and an interesting concept.


Duh! I don’t think I need to remind you that the library has FREE and NEW RELEASE books… but I will. But what you may not know about the library is that they also offer access to ebooks free with a library card. I wrote an article awhile back explaining the process. Remember the Amazon Wish List I mentioned awhile back? I like to cross reference the books on that list with the books that I can rent online.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg takes out of copyright books (currently over 50,000) and makes them available by ebook. Now’s your chance to catch up on the classics – for free!

Discount eBook Newsletters

OHFB and BookBub are two email newsletters I subscribe to that tempt me on a daily basis to buy ebooks, but at a ridiculously reduced price. You can’t opt for a daily email or weekly digest.

Local Used Bookstores

I’m going to ask you to go in with no expectations. Don’t have a specific title in mind, just be open to the possibilities. Used bookstores are absolute gems and used books can be DIRT cheap. There’s one in Lakeview called Bookleggers that I feel a particular fondness for and has some ridiculously good deals.

Book of the Month Club

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience starting the Book of the Month club subscription. It’s awesome! As soon as my 3 month subscription is over, I’m paying for a full year upfront. They let you choose between 5 books curated by interesting book lovers, with prices as low as $10 (including shipping) for a brand new hardcover. Can’t beat it.

What are your best tips to avoid paying full price for books? Share in the comments!

Life, Shopping,

Your Black Friday Plan of Attack

As a shopper who’s always trying to get the best deal, Black Friday is one of my favorite shopping events of the year. In case you’re wondering, NO, I do not line up in front of stores for hours or days… I enjoy a nice Thanksgiving feast with my family and purposely keep my drinking low.

I’ve successfully shopped many Black Fridays, and want to share my Black Friday plan of attack with you. As an added bonus, I’ve included some of the best deals I’ve found for this year!

There are three stores I always go to:

  • Walmart
  • Best Buy
  • Target

Since arguably the best deals on Black Friday relate back to electronics, you’d be wise to start your adventure at one of these stores. Target and Walmart have the added benefit of low prices on many other goods made exceptionally lower for Black Friday. Big box stores are best bets if you’re shopping for a lot of different people or in a lot of different categories.

I’d suggest starting your Black Friday experience with Walmart. For the past couple of years, they allow you to go in the store and fill up your cart, even before Black Friday pricing is valid. So stay warm and stock up. Honestly if you don’t have too many specifics, your Black Friday shopping could start and end here.

But Walmart doesn’t have everything. And I’m sure you’ve got a huge list to shop for. Here are some of the best deals this year from my top 3 Black Friday stores:


  • Fitbit Flex: $59
  • Fitbit Charge: $119
  • Roku: $25

Best Buy

  • Amazon Fire: $35


  • $350 Apple Watch with $100 Target gift card
  • Fitbit Charge: $119
  • Free Target gift card with the purchase of an iPad
  • Guitar Hero Live: $59
  • 40% off all apparel and accessories

If you have a Target debit card or credit card, you’ll save an additional 5%!

Browse the ads for all the stores you’re interesting, make a list of what you want, and make a plan of attack with these things in mind:

Your Black Friday 2015 Plan of Attack

  • Shop with a team. The lines will be long, so position one person in line, and the other can be a “runner,” going through both of your lists and getting the items you want.
  • Utilize friends in different stores. If you’re going after big ticket items, you can probably only personally set your sights on one. But if you work with friends in other stores, you can help each other get what you want.
  • Be patient. Some stores do require lines and there will definitely be a lot of waiting for checkout. But the deals will be worth it!
  • Don’t get too drunk on Thanksgiving. Otherwise, shopping is going to be super painful.
  • Don’t forget to shop for yourself! Stock up on products you can use all year round. I personally focus on new kitchen stuff (TONS of great deals on Black Friday) or computer accessories (external hard drive, HDMI cords, you get the idea).
  • Are you a movie buff? Best Buy, Target and Walmart have the best deals of the year. Tons of titles, seasons, etc.
  • Don’t feel like braving the stores? Amazon’s got your back with many similar deals. And plenty of online retailers will feature Cyber Monday specials.
  • Clothing stores tend to give scratch off cards. Savings aren’t always guaranteed, but can be REALLY good. Just know you basically won’t be able to try anything on.
  • Dress warm but comfortable. Layers are your friend.
  • An energy drink or coffee is a must, with a snack. If you’re serious about Black Friday shopping, you’ll be out for hours. It’s not easy to stay awake when you’ve got a belly full of turkey!

What tips would you add to this list? Share in the comments so we can all make a better Black Friday plan of attack!